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Citizen Weekly

Sunday, 26 October 2014

FACEBOOK COP BRINGS CRIME DOWN WITH CLICK FINGER

Social media users in Kenya only hit the headlines more often than not, when individuals are hauled before a court to face charges of spreading hate speech or using abusive language against others on the social media pulpit.
Rarely do people who constructively use social media make life better and easier for others.
Albert Kipchumba, a senior police officer in Uasin Gishu county falls in the rare category. The officer commanding Kapsoya Police Post in Eldoret is an ardent Facebook user who has embraced the platform to fight crime.
The 39-year-old tech savvy cop uses the site to get information from members of the public in his area of jurisdiction majority of who include college and university students, which has assisted him and his officers a great deal in combating crimes.
The police post serves Kapsoya, Kimumu, Action, Munyaka and Jerusalem. University of Eldoret and Moi University School of Law and the adjacent areas also fall under his wing.
He also uses his account to reach out and communicate to the public and pass useful information and at times posts pictures of stolen property which they have recovered and asks the owners to come identify them.
“I consider myself a Facebook addict. I joined the site in 2012, but I started being an active user six months ago when I was posted to my current station,” Kipchumba told Weekly Citizen in an interview.
The police officer who is clearly passionate about his job says he decided to go digital in order to serve members of the public better and also to reach out to the middle class and young people.
“Most of us in the police service rely on forums commonly known as barazas to interact with the public. But I decided to be a bit different and utilise the online platform as I realised the youth who are critical stakeholders in the security sectors do not attend this public forums,” he says.
Kipchumba, early this year, was forced to invest in a smart phone- an I-Phone 5, purposely for him to keep abreast with what goes on online, and to access information faster.
Most of his updates on Facebook are security tips and announcements on what they are doing. He also gives the public reassurances of their security and circulates his number to them.
“I ask my friends to share my updates on their timelines and that way, I manage to reach more people, even those who are not my Facebook pals,” says Kipchumba who has been nicknamed ‘ “Less than 10 Minutes” by a section of the people he serves due to the relatively first response of the team he leads to any distress calls.
“I also receive messages on my inbox. Some of the messages have proved to be crucial leads that have led us to smash criminal rackets in my Kapsoya zone. I respond to each message and I am never offended if on responding, I find that it was a hoax,” Kipchumba whose official page shows he has close to 2,000 friends followers on Facebook says.
He has activated the settings on his page in a certain way that he receives notification remotely via SMS whenever he is not online, in case someone sends him a message. He can also update his status through SMS.
The move by the OCS, who in 2005 attended a two-month anti-terrorism course on post blast investigations at Louisiana State Police University Academy in the US, to go digital is today bearing fruits.
Kipchumba, together with other officers, recently netted over 2,000 litres of illicit brew in Kimumu area, after being tipped by someone on Facebook.
“There are many criminal cases, some that are ongoing that I will not divulge because of obvious reasons, due to information from my friends on social media,” says the police inspector.
Residents said that Kapsoya and the adjacent estates which were crime prone some time back are now relatively safer as compared to a year ago.
Isaac Kuria of Reclaiming Angels Ministry says there were many illicit brews dens in most residential estates in Eldoret East, and petty crimes were on the rise but the cases have gone down since Kipchumba was posted to the area six months ago.
“Kipchumba is a dedicated officer and a blessing to us. We now feel safer in our estates. He does not only interact with us online but also visits most churches in our area,” says Kuria.
Pauline Nenunge, a communication post-graduate student  in Action Estate along the Eldoret-Iten Road on the outskirts of the town echoes Kuria’s sentiments.
“We never felt safer before in our estate. Sometime, cases of muggings were common but at the moment, there are none,” said Nenunge.
Eldoret East OCPD Nelson Taliti, Kipchumba’s boss confirmed that there has been a sharp decrease of reported criminal activities in Kapsoya zone and other areas within his jurisdiction.
“I am happy with the good work my devoted officers like Kipchumba and his colleagues are doing. Their dedication, team work and prompt response to distress calls from the public has led to low crime levels,” said the police boss on phone.
“I am sure if all security agents and my colleagues embraced modern communication like Facebook, this country will be a more secure place,” said Kipchumba.